By Beth Sussman
If you have a medical emergency this Spring Fling, your chemistry lab partner may be the one to come to your rescue.
Penn's first student Medical Emergency Response Team officially kicked off its program yesterday, just in time for the annual spring festival.
Student emergency medical technicians in the group went on call at 8 p.m. yesterday and will stay on duty until 3 a.m. Sunday.
Student EMTs on bikes will respond to medical emergencies when they are alerted via walkie-talkie. Since they will likely arrive first on the scene of an emergency, they will care for patients until ambulances arrive.
Each weekend, a crew of two to three student EMTs, stationed in Sansom Place East, are slated to be on call. However, this weekend, two crews of two will be ready to accommodate Spring Fling.
For every weekend hereafter, the EMTs will be available Thursday night through Friday morning and Friday evening through Sunday night during the one-year pilot program.
In the case of an emergency, students who call 511 from a campus phone or 215-573-3333 from a cell phone are connected to the Penn Communications Center. Professional first responders are then be dispatched.
But now Penn MERT will also be notified, in addition to a police officer and the Philadelphia Fire Department.
"Like Penn Police respond on bicycle, so too will the Penn MERT EMTs respond on bicycles," College junior and MERT organizer Andrew Mener said.
Mener said there is a distinct advantage in having students, in addition to ambulances, respond to an emergency.
"We know where the buildings are on campus, and we can get in the buildings," he said.
About 50 trained student EMTs are currently involved with the program. However, only 17 of those students are able to respond to emergencies because they have taken a mandatory bicycle training course taught by the Penn Police.
According to Evelyn Wiener, director of Student Health Services, students have approached her in the past about starting a student EMT program, but nothing ever got off the ground.
But with this group of students, "everything we said [they needed to do], they did it," Wiener said. "They came back every time."
College sophomore Adam Novick has been a trained EMT for over two years.
"When I came to campus, I was upset there was no EMT program as other campuses have," Novick said. "It was the perseverance from both students and the administration" that got the program started.
Nursing freshman Jake Bevilacqua will be taking over as the group's leader next year and hopes to expand the program into an always-available service with more bicycles and medical supplies.
"You get to help the Penn community," he said. "It's our peers and our friends."
The cost of the program is being shared between the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life and the Division of Public Safety.
"We are so proud of the skill and passion demonstrated by these students and look forward to working with them," Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.